Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Sunday sharply criticized former White House chief strategist Stephen K. Bannon and others trying to knock off Republican incumbents as “specialists at nominating people who lose.”
McConnell appeared on two Sunday morning talk shows and was asked about Bannon’s efforts to find primary opponents for all but one of the Senate Republicans running for reelection next year. McConnell argued that the kind of candidates Bannon and others are supporting will not have the broad appeal needed to win general elections in some of those states.
“The kind of people that are supported by the element that you’ve just been referring to are specialists in defeating Republican candidates in November, and that’s what this interparty skirmish is about,” McConnell said on “Fox News Sunday.” “Our goal is to nominate people in the primaries next year who can actually win” in the general election.
McConnell went on to say that the effort of Bannon and others “isn’t going to help President Trump achieve his agenda. He needs a Republican Senate and a Republican House to confirm judges, to pass legislation that is important to him and to the country.”
Since leaving the White House in August, Bannon has argued that many GOP incumbents are standing in the way of Trump achieving the nationalist agenda that swept him into the White House. Part of Bannon’s stated goal is to oust McConnell from his leadership post.
On Fox, McConnell was also asked whether he thought his low job approval numbers nationally would be a drag on other Republican senatorial candidates and hurt the party’s prospects of winning the Senate.
“I’m not going to be on the ballot in any of these states, and I don’t think the candidates who are running need to take a position on me,” McConnell said. “The people in those states are interested in what the candidates can do for them and for the country. Trying to cook up an issue like this is irrelevant.”
Appearing on CNN’s “State of the Union,” McConnell played down infighting between Trump and congressional Republicans, emphasizing what he called a shared agenda on a tax overhaul, judicial appointments and deregulation.
“I think he's getting a lot more done than he’s giving everybody credit for,” McConnell said of Trump. “I think his appointments, as I’ve said earlier, are absolutely changing the country. The optimism about the economy is picking up. It’s related to the people he’s put in positions at various key places in the federal government. It’s related to the Supreme Court appointments and all the judges that we’re confirming.”
McConnell said he’s “not particularly concerned” about recent criticisms the president has lodged against the Senate GOP’s inability to advance his priorities.
“We're thrilled to have somebody in the White House who supports what this House and Senate Republican majority has been wanting to have an opportunity to do for a long time. And so I refused to get diverted off on the various comments that maybe made at one time or another,” the majority leader said.